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We looked . . . we just didn't have much luck uncovering the kind of excessive, damaging, mean-spirited pride that appeared as superbia in Pope Gregory's list of deadly sins. Then again, we did find plenty of things to be proud of — but this is Johns Hopkins. (Were we not supposed to say that?)

The Oprah Effect
We've Got Spirit, Yes We Do
The Cult of Theseus
Empowering Environment
Look Good, Feel Good
For the Love of Sport


The Oprah Effect
Katrina Bell McDonald's latest book, Embracing Oprah: The Contemporary Challenges of Black Sisterhood (Rowman & Littlefield), was inspired in part by a car repair shop conversation she had with a stranger. The woman, African-American like McDonald, saw a commercial for Oprah on TV and dismissed Oprah Winfrey as a sellout, saying, "She's not even black anymore. You know what I mean."

Photo by Mark Lee McDonald, a Johns Hopkins associate professor of sociology, had heard similar comments before. One black woman might be dismissed as "ghetto," another as "too white." "I'd be hanging out with my middle-class friends, and someone would refer to black women as 'other,' as someone they couldn't relate to because of class," she says.

Where was the sisterhood? wondered McDonald, whose previous work has focused on African-American women and families; intersections of race, class, and gender; and the sociology of the family. Theories about the growing African-American middle class suggested a divide in the African-American community between the haves and the have-nots. How was this affecting black women in particular? And what, if anything, did these sisters have in common?

What McDonald found surprised her. Regardless of age, income, educational attainment, or racial identity, the 88 Baltimore-area women she surveyed shared a major trait: pride. No matter what kind of academic degrees they held, where they lived, or how much money they made, the overwhelming majority of women McDonald surveyed — some 94 percent — said they took "great pride" in being black women.

"This is not an egotistical pride, it's community pride," McDonald explains. "It's pride in collective survival. Most black folks will say we shouldn't be here. We never should have made it through slavery. All you have to do is see a black woman walking down the street and you can see her pride."

Why Oprah? "Everyone talks about Oprah — whether they like her or not," says McDonald. "She is a contemporary test for so many people — can one 'remain black' in spite of one's success? To embrace Oprah is to recognize and accept the broad spectrum of black womanhood and what authenticity can mean for different women — and still recognize that which the vast majority of black women share." —MB


We've Got Spirit, Yes We Do...
As a Johns Hopkins undergraduate, Jason Fodeman, A&S '05, was a diehard Blue Jays fan, proud of his school and its athletes. But when he surveyed the stands, he was disappointed by how few fellow classmates he found. "Community and school spirit was lacking," he says.

So the economics major decided to do something about it. Together with friends Dan Hislop and Michael Poli, both freshmen, he founded the Hopkins Student Booster Club. Their most visible accomplishment: establishing a student seating section at Homewood Field dubbed the Nest.

The idea quickly caught on during the men's lacrosse season this past spring. Thanks to free blue T-shirts and a liberal use of blue body paint, the stands on the home side of the field were transformed into a sea of cheering, chanting fans. "At the Duke game, everyone [in the Nest] stood the whole game," Fodeman says. "It was really impressive."

The effect wasn't lost on the players. "To have thousands of people cheering for you, particularly friends and students sitting in their own section, it just took the experience of game day to a whole other level," says co-captain Chris Watson.

Fodeman et al. have plans for generating more school spirit at Hopkins — like sending out e-mail reminders and posting fliers about upcoming games, and branching out to promote football and basketball. "Every part of the school benefits when kids feel like they are a part of something," Fodeman says. —MB


The Cult of Theseus
In Greek mythology, excessive pride brought down even the mightiest of mortals. Take Bellerophon, who was undone by hubris when he claimed that his winged horse, Pegasus, could fly him to Mount Olympus. The gods sent a fly to sting the horse, which stumbled, and Bellerophon fell to his death.

Theseus with a Wounded Boar, attributed to the Antiphon Painter (Attica), ca. 480 B.C.
Photo courtesy
The Walters Art Museum
However, in Greek history, pride was a good thing, says H. Alan Shapiro, the W.H. Collins Vickers Professor of Archaeology at Johns Hopkins. For the ancient Greeks, the pride they took in their heroes helped to form their collective identity.

"The civic identity and civic pride of Athenians particularly is shaped by their worship of a number of heroes, including Theseus," says Shapiro, who is writing a book on the topic. The Athenian king was strong, brave, and resourceful. "Theseus was considered the national hero of Athens," Shapiro says. People built shrines to honor him, held festivals in his name, and painted his image on pottery.

Shapiro has studied hundreds of those images to understand Theseus' place in Athenian society. The people's pride in Theseus was a great unifier, he explains. Worshiping the king "was a way to help bring everyone together — like we might have in the Orioles or in Cal Ripken today." —MB


An Empowering Environment
Alan Green trains students to counsel teens in Baltimore City's poorest neighborhoods, where many parents are absent, the drug trade flourishes, and violence is endemic. The mindset shared by many of these teens? I deserve this. This is the way life's supposed to be.

Green's goal is to counter this debilitating world view in the school guidance counselor's office through an approach known as "urban school counseling." Its central premise: that students in disadvantaged neighborhoods must be given an accurate view of the historical and socioeconomic antecedents that led to the way things are today. Such knowledge, the thinking goes, will help them to find a better way for themselves.

Green with urban counseling students Shana Quick (l) and Shayla Harris.
Photo by Christopher Myers
"It's community pride, in a sense, but we don't overlook the negatives. It's empowering, not enabling," says Green, who directs the Urban School Counseling program within the Johns Hopkins School of Professional Studies in Business and Education, which each year prepares about a dozen master's candidates in this field.

Green offers the example of a Baltimore City high school student who had been flagged by his principal for excessive aggressiveness and absenteeism. The boy's father had recently been arrested for killing his girlfriend and was in jail, and his mother was out of the picture, either dead or in prison. The boy's aunt had grudgingly allowed him to live with her, but offered no food or financial support. A recent graduate of the urban school counseling program began working closely with the young man. He offered traditional bereavement support, and also covered the history of drug use and violence in the city, exposing the teen to books, newspaper articles, and other sources of information. The young man grew to understand how his father had gotten caught up in drugs, and why his neighborhood was so dangerous. "The kid really grabbed hold of this," Green recalls. "Rather than sinking further into depression, [he was] motivated to get a part-time job — to take some responsibility and not feel sorry for himself."

Green recalls another instance, when he was working with some teenage boys at an East Baltimore school. The group was talking about rap music and the factors that influenced it when the conversation turned to reading. Green made the point that it was once illegal for slaves to read and that Frederick Douglass risked his life to learn how. The informal history lesson made a particular impact on one teen, Green says. "This really fired this kid up. It motivated him. It made a difference in how he approached school."

Many aspiring counselors who come to the program are former classroom teachers who find themselves stymied by the serious social and emotional issues their students face. "They spend most of their time dealing with crises — they see their task as being teachers seriously impeded," Green says.

Veronique Gugliucciello, who completed her master's in Urban School Counseling in May 2004, had taught at Gardenville Elementary in Baltimore for several years before moving to counseling. "I felt I needed to touch my students on a different level," she says, adding that she's found value in the urban counseling approach. "It's empowering for students to know about the environment they are living in and why things are the way they are." —SD


Look Good, Feel Good
It was quite a surprise to some when, in 2003, Johns Hopkins opened its Cosmetic Center at Green Spring Station. After all, since when does a venerable institution renowned for its serious medicine concern itself with making boobs bigger and skin smoother?

A Washington Post article from January 2004 put it this way: "Long one of the most revered names in academic medicine — and for more than a dozen years ranked the nation's best hospital by U.S. News & World Report — Hopkins has embarked on a new and potentially lucrative venture so at variance with its international reputation for gravitas that it would have been unthinkable a decade ago."

But Craig Vander Kolk, a professor of plastic surgery at the School of Medicine who was instrumental in founding the center, is proud of the work he does there — because it enables him to help instill a little pride in others: "We're interested in helping people feel good about themselves," he says.

Vander Kolk, now one of the center's directors, has specialized in treating kids with cleft lips and cleft palates, and is recognized internationally for his research in craniofacial surgery. He brings his experience and skills from that work to cosmetic surgery. "I approach cosmetic patients the same way as cleft palate or cleft lip kids — I approach them as a person," Vander Kolk says. "I help get them feeling like their outside is the same as their inside."

The center is staffed by Hopkins docs whose specialties range from otolaryngology and oculoplasty to vascular surgery and interventional radiology. Combined, they have about 2,000 patient visits a year; Vander Kolk alone performs more than 300 procedures per year on patients ranging in age from 35 to 75. Younger women most often have less invasive procedures like eyelid surgery (called blepharoplasty) and Botox or Restylane injections (both treat wrinkles and folds; the former does so by weakening the muscles, the latter fills the areas in), while older women may also have some type of facelift. The most common procedures for men include blepharoplasty, botox, and neck lifts.

Prices for these procedures — which depend on a patient's age; his or her individual anatomy, needs, and goals; and the surgeon who does the work — can run from a few hundred dollars (for Botox or Restylane) to several thousand (for blepharoplasty or a facelift). According to Vander Kolk, eyelid surgery can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $7,500, and a facelift — including the neck, cheeks, and jawline — can cost up to $12,000.

With shows like Extreme Makeover and The Swan out there, cosmetic surgery is a fact of life. (Maybe too much of one. At cocktail parties, says Vander Kolk, "everybody thinks that, as a plastic surgeon, I'm on Nip/Tuck.") His goal is to make Green Spring Station a center of excellence for cosmetic surgery, focusing on education, outcomes research, and patient safety. And he thinks that Hopkins is the right institution for the job. "It's out there. It's medicine. We should be leading the way," he says. —CP


For the Love of Sport
Last March 5, Hopkins men's
lacrosse played its season opener at Princeton. The crowd of 6,325 was the largest in the history of Princeton's lacrosse stadium, and almost every one of them walked out at the end of the game — just as the Hopkins women's team was filing in for its game. Watching everyone leave just before your game starts is not easy, admits Hopkins women's lacrosse coach Janine Tucker. She recalls, "The girls joked about it and said, 'Oh, everybody's just going to get something to eat. They'll be right back.'"

Photo by Jay Van Rensselaer The fans didn't come right back, of course, but Tucker says it's pride, not cheering multitudes, that motivates her players. "It's ideal to play in front of a crazed crowd, but it's not something driving these women," she says. "They play for the love of the sport and their commitment to the school. It's pride in playing for Johns Hopkins. The girls are very sensitive to putting on that uniform and knowing what it stands for, whether there's one person watching or 100,001.

"You know, it was interesting: The group of fans, other than parents, that ended up staying [for the Princeton game] was our men's team. As all the thousands left after watching our boys play, it was very cool for our girls to look up in the stands and see that our men's team had delayed [going] home and stayed. It meant a lot and was very touching." —DK

Return to The Seven Deadly Sins ... Lust | Gluttony | Envy | Pride | Sloth | Avarice | Anger
Return to September 2005 Table of Contents

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